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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Salahis?

Salahi Party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi have everybody up in arms at the White House.  Our reality-tv-fame-seeking society appears to have prompted this pair to crash the Obamas' first State Dinner, honoring the Singhs of India.

We'll see if the ensuing publicity battle bares out whether the camera-hungry couple actually had a valid invitation for the party.  (My guess is they did not, but I'm always surprised by the depths to which Washington can sink.)  Assuming they truly are just a couple of paparazzi chasers, this leads to some fun lessons in systems thinking:  mainly, what do you do when you have uninvited inputs into your system?

In my work with the SWAT team, I learned a lot about the role of the flash-bang device (otherwise called the noise and light distraction device or NLDD).  Having experienced it firsthand, I can see why tactical law enforcement use this explosive.  Its "flash" and/or "bang" is uninvited by the bad guys and gets their attention.  The distraction allows the good guys to do their job and apprehend the bad guys more effectively.  Good guy and bad guy labels aside, it would appear as though this party crash has served as a flash-bang to the White House.

These uninvited inputs of the Salahis will lead to some serious questions at the White House:

  • How did they get in? What lapse in security allowed it to occur? Who was accountable for the failure (i.e., who will be adding to the unemployment statistics by Monday)?
  • What impacts will this breach in security have in future White House events? How will processes change to ensure safety and security?
  • How will the Obama Administration respond to the Salahis?  Will they press charges or will there be a mere slap on the wrist?  What will the feedback loop look like?
  • How will this make things more difficult for future desired inputs (i.e., invited guests)?

You may wonder how this affects you and your organization.  Have you ever wound up with an undesired input on your team?  your department?  your company?  How hard was it to get rid of them?  Or are they still crashing your party?  How many "policies and procedures" were put in place because of your Salahis?  How many additional hoops must you now jump through because somebody crashed your party?  Are you in a position to relax security


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